Taking the national stage yesterday, a state representative from western Pennsylvania blasted unauthorized immigrants as exploiting birthright citizenship by having an "anchor baby" in the United States.

Daryl Metcalfe, a Republican from Butler County, called for the end of automatic citizenship for babies born to illegal immigrants, during a speech at the National Press Club in Washington.

"Currently, hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens are crossing U.S. borders to give birth and exploit their child as an 'anchor baby,' as a means to obtain residency" and other benefits, Metcalfe contended.

He was joined in Washington by Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh, also a Republican, and other like-minded state lawmakers.

The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants citizenship to anyone born in this country regardless of the immigration status of the baby's parents. Metcalfe disputes its interpretation.

Metcalfe, who this week took on the chairmanship of the State Government Committee in the Pennsylvania House, has promised to reintroduce his bill to fight illegal immigration. It is similar to an Arizona law that requires law-enforcement officers to try to verify the status of suspected illegal immigrants, among other things.

In response to Metcalfe's and the other state lawmakers' comments yesterday, the American Civil Liberties Union called on lawmakers to reject their proposed legislation.

State Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat who represents parts of Montgomery and Delaware counties, said yesterday he will reintroduce his bill designed to prohibit an Arizona-style law from taking effect in Pennsylvania.

He called Metcalfe's bill "fringe legislation."

Though Republicans now control Harrisburg and the legislative agenda, Leach said, it would be surprising if Republican lawmakers choose to "focus on fringe issues rather than basic issues people of Pennsylvania care about," such as unemployment and education.

State Rep. Tony Payton, D-Phila., who last year introduced in the House a bill similar to Leach's, said yesterday he will take a wait-and-see approach.

"I don't think [Metcalfe's] bill will go anywhere," he said.